The "why" of summer camp

Summer camp brochures and websites tell a lot about what Camp Wood YMCA does but Senior Operations Director, BJ Murray, believes the focus should be on why we do things. This shift in thinking has yielded positive results for Camp Wood YMCA’s staff, parents and campers. Read more of BJ's thoughts about Camp Wood YMCA's culture and why it matters. 

I arrived here nearly one year ago as the Senior Operations Director. During that time, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Camp Wood YMCA. I love the families. I love those I work with every day (we have an awesome team here!). I love the summer and seasonal staff (they keep a smile on my face every day and are an incredible group of role models) and I love the campers we serve. Whether they are a 6 year old mini-camper or a 90 year-old WoodFest attendee, I love giving the experience of camp to such a variety of individuals. This really is an incredible place for so many people. But, above all these things, I love the culture we have here at Camp Wood more than anything.

A few years ago, I became fascinated with the idea of building a strong camp culture and I came across a remarkable video. It is a TED Talk by Simon Sinek called “Start with Why”. After that video, I started digging deeper and deeper into the “why” of summer camp. Why do we do what we do here at Camp Wood YMCA? Over the past year, the staff and I have spent a lot of time figuring that out. As a result, the culture that I have seen flourish has been incredible.

So, what is the “why” of the Camp Wood YMCA experience? Why do we offer the programs we do and what do we hope is their outcome? I’d describe it in the following ways.

Camp Wood YMCA is for people who want a safe, fun, character-driven experience based on building deep and lasting relationships.

We do what we do because we love people—all people. Regardless of belief, color, creed, financial status, grades, fame, fortune, athletic prowess or any other label, you are loved here. We celebrate who you are as a unique person. We celebrate your character. We encourage you to discover the best version of yourself. We do this because we believe in the potential of every person, and we want them to see and reach that potential in themselves.

We celebrate connections – with role models, peers, nature, faith, and character values. We remind campers and guests that they have something to offer our world, their communities and themselves. The supportive relationships we build at camp create a sense of belonging—a home—a place free from judgement, worry, and fear. And we know that when campers shed worry and fear, they discover a steady path to achievement and personal growth. They learn new skills. They strengthen their character. They make authentic, supportive, life-long friendships. It’s a remarkable process to witness.  

Now, you may notice that there is nothing in the previous description about our facilities (although I would put them up against any camp in the country), our food (it is really good), our programs (again, I would put them up against any camp in the country), our budget size, our salaries, or our capital campaigns. It is all about who we serve. It is about growth. It is about love. It is about a vision bigger than ourselves and about creating a better world--a world filled with people committed to make the lives of those around them better. Camp is a world where we do not see people by the color of their skin, whether they vote red or blue, or whether they share the same beliefs as we do. Instead, camp is about creating a place where we see people by the character of their heart. It is a place where we reach out to one another.  It is a place where we are called to be friends to all—to our foes and to the friendless. It is a place where we can all become the person we’ve always wanted to be—each day better than we were the day before. It is a place with a life-changing culture that we are called to share with one another, with our communities and with the world.